Vatican downplays reports Benedict is gravely ill
THE Vatican has rejected a German newspaper report that former Pope Benedict XVI is seriously ill.
A spokesman yesterday said his condition was “not particularly worrying” and that he was overcoming a painful but not grave ailment.
The clarification came hours after Benedict’s biographer, Peter Seewald, sparked alarm by telling the ‘Passauer Neue Presse’ that he had found the 93-yearold ex-pope exceptionally frail when he visited him on Saturday.
He claimed that the former pontiff has been suffering from a facial infection since his return to Rome after a trip to his native Bavaria to visit his brother, who died a month ago. Georg Ratzinger died on July 1 aged 96. The two brothers were ordained on the same day in 1951.
Mr Seewald, who has published several book-length interviews with Benedict, handed over a copy of the biography to the former pontiff on Saturday, the newspaper reported.
He said Benedict, who has been in shaky health for some time, was now suffering from shingles, a viral infection that causes painful rashes and is common among older people.
However, the Vatican downplayed Benedict’s condition.
“The health conditions of the Pope Emeritus are not particularly worrying, apart from being those of an old man of 93 who is overcoming the most acute phase of a painful but not grave illness,” the statement said.
Mr Seewald said Benedict’s voice was barely audible – echoing something other visitors have said for months – but that the former pope told him he might begin writing again if he regains his strength.
Benedict, who was elected in 2005 to succeed the widely popular Pope John Paul II, shocked the world and even his closest aides in February 2013 when he announced that he was stepping down.
He told a gathering of cardinals that he was too old and frail to lead an institution with 1.3 billion members.
At the time of Benedict’s resignation, the Vatican was mired in a raft of financial woes, sexual abuse scandals and infighting.
He was succeeded by Pope Francis (83).
Frail: Pope Emeritus Benedict (93) in June when he visited his ailing brother in Germany.